Monday, June 27, 2016

I can forget...

(Photos in this post are of my beautiful dancing daughter right before her ballet performance last weekend. Not related to my post content, just lovely & shared for the grandmas. I didn't think you'd mind...)




Memory. It's a big thing in my world these days. 

Memory is a funny thing.  It spurs us forward because of what we once experienced.  The trouble lies in those moments we have forgotten.  Those times when we've been stuck, felt hopeless, yet were rescued in big and small ways that showed how much God cared... only to forget years later when we faced a similar life giant.  I can forget.  I can forget how God keeps His promises to me.  I can forget how tenderly He deals with me when I deserve nothing from Him.  I can forget how He never forgets.  I can forget how He keeps me close to His heart, always cradled in the palm of His hand.  I can forget that if it matters to me, it matters to Him.  I can forget that the things I need are always at the forefront of His mind, and He doesn't want me to worry because there simply is no need.




In February, as most of you know, Adrain left his 20 year career and changed directions completely into the world of insurance and finance with a Christian organization.  It left me breathless.  Mostly, it left me breathless in fear and worry about how we were going to make ends meet with a 100% commission type career after 20 years of a steady paycheck.  Because I'd forget.  I'd forget about every single solitary collective thing in my past 40 years with God.  As I would scratch things out on paper in March, chewing anxiously on the end of my pencil, I'd think, "how can this work?"  And then God...

I could end this post right here.  Because it begins and ends with that; "And then God..."

I began scribbling down all the places and times something happened miraculously, coincidentally, perfectly timed, etc over the past nearly five months.  I have a running list right now, of things we didn't anticipate, things we didn't know about, perfectly timed, things we thought wouldn't happen that did, and then things we feared might happen that didn't.  I also wrote down seven personal prayer goals for the things I cautiously hoped God would help, (when will I stop with the cautious part and move into bold territory?) provide or take care of through this job change, and then God...    

He has been graciously allowing me to systematically check those boxes off  that prayer request list I laid at His feet back in February and that leaves me breathless as well but for different reasons.  I feel breathless over my own forgetfulness.  I forget that HE FREAKING LOVES ME! If I started there, it might just end there... peacefully in my own heart.



 This weekend we had some beloved missionary friends staying with us and I picked their brains about how to not fret over God's provision over this whole living on faith thing because missionaries must surely have that market cornered.  I tried to hide my desperation for their key to knowledge by acting as nonchalantly as possible when I freakishly pinned them to the ground with, "So uh... how do you not completely freak out that you only get paid when people feel led to give your mission funds?"  That was followed by a very real and sweetly emotional time as my friend shared how he sees things after these many years... He said that he always thinks about that old hymn, Come Thou Fount." There is a line in the second verse where it says, "Here I raise my Ebenezer" and he reminded us what that was (and it had nothing to do with Scrooge, which derailed us shortly as we howled with laughter over our mental images of the Duck Tales version of Scrooge McDuck raising a stein or something as a toast.) An ebenezer is also a monument.  And by raising it, it also means you build it.  So in biblical days, people often built or raised a monument after God had helped or delivered them.  In that way, they could visually see and be reminded of how God had been a very present help in their times of need and not forget... so when we keep a notepad filled with things and ways God has delivered us, we are raising our ebenezer.  As we blog about His answers to prayer and His faithfulness when we deserved nothing, we are raising our ebenezer. 



As I reflected on many of these thoughts I realized that leaving fears over our future come down to an active personal choice.  There isn't a magical number of times God can deliver us that will cause a mental shift where suddenly we are  able to trust, hands-free, care-free and worry-free.  At some point we must look back... see... remember... and then not knowing what the future will hold, still choose to plant our faith flag in the sand and say, "Okay I trust. I choose to trust. Help my unbelief!" 


How about you?  Do you need to plant your flag in the sand next to mine and link arms in this choice so we don't forget?  Is God calling you to step out in faith in an area but you've been paralyzed with fear?  Do you need to go back and make a list of ways He has been faithful in this life?  

Because I can so easily forget... here I am, raising my ebenezer to His faithfulness.
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Monday, June 13, 2016

Gathering


Such heartbreaking things in the news this weekend isn't there?  Sure makes me want to hold my family closer.  We are recovering slightly from the last few weeks of constant activity, and the bad things that happen in the world make me happy for taking time to throw open the doors and gather in those that I love.  We've hosted lots of little backyard gatherings, dinners, evening events, after school celebrations, BBQ's and end of sports shin-digs recently not to mention, the big 8th grade graduation BBQ we hosted yesterday which was a huge hit in one handsome teenager's life.  We've had so much going on that there have been a few events I was honestly considering cancelling because I was just so tired... I'm betting most of you can relate.  I always think it's so easy to convince myself not to host things when life is chaotic and there is obviously a place for that sometimes. However, I can take that feeling to an extreme when I'm overwhelmed. I tend to want to close the doors tight, not clean up after a bunch of extra people, eat cereal for dinner with Netflix and have an early bedtime.  Though that sounds great (often times even blissful) I've been finding that opening our doors and hosting can be a practice that consistently leads to greater blessings all around. When I look back over the past few weeks, I'm so glad I didn't cancel anything! (I might take that bowl of cereal and Netflix next weekend though! Ha!)

That said, I've fed a lot of people lately and here are my recent top ten backyard entertaining tips.  Most of these were things I was stressing about, overthinking before hand, unsure of or trying out as a sort of entertaining experiment.  Enjoy!
  
1) Nobody cares about how many weeds you didn't pull or what your grass length is, but you. (Why did I stress over this?)  
2) People will sit around happily on lawn blankets when there aren't enough camp chairs. (Again, I was so worried, but people find places to BE.)
3) Keeping it incredibly simple when it comes to the eats is always going to be right even if it's only hamburgers, bags of chips, potato salad and watermelon. (I kept thinking we wouldn't have enough.  This kind of food is always enough.  MORE than enough really.)
4) Always buy more beverages and chips than you actually think you need. (Seriously to the beverages one. Seven kids, from age 15 to four, can go through more sneakily sipped cans of cherry coke than you can imagine... and fifteen adults can go through more hard ciders/adult beverages than you think they will on a warm day!)
5) Everyone will sing along to the country music on Pandora.

6) Make life easy and put all your burger toppings and condiments on ONE TRAY.  Seriously life changing for future BBQ's.
**Bonus tip- Make a burger sauce of equal parts mayo and ketchup and then add some big spoonfuls of relish.  It's going to be gone, long before the ketchup and mustard are.
**Bonus tip- Use cute wooden cutlery and stamp the handles for a simple label. Everything can be prepared ahead of time so that it will only take a few minutes to assemble. The day before Joe's 8th grade graduation BBQ, I filled drinking glasses with condiments, stamped the spoons, lined a large tray with  parchment, and about an hour before the party, my sis in law sliced the tomato and onion while I washed lettuce and then my niece helped me scatter all the veggies around the jars.  Not only was it pretty, but super functional with our large group.  I placed a few wooden forks around the veggies so people could spear their tomato slices and such. (I used drinking glasses from my grocery store that also come with snap on lids for this, an old tray that I've had for years, and wood cutlery from this Etsy shop.) Prep and cleanup were a breeze and I might keep condiments stored in these glasses all summer.  Mason jars would be another great way to do this.)
7) The doors will never be closed as people go in and out.  Make peace with it.  You can kill the flies and spiders later.
8) Having a game of some kind in the lawn that anyone, regardless of age can play, will always be a hit.  (That said, cornhole rules will never make sense to my brain!)

9) Don't forget to put a garbage can and recycling container right by the food area...some people might actually use them! (grin)
10) Texas sheet cake, always... for the win.
 
 

Speaking of backyard entertaining, I wanted to share some new lovelies from Ever Thine Home. They are celebrating five years... and offering free shipping right now with this code, 5YEARSOFETH  I recently got this banner which is perfect if you're hosting a July 4th party. I tried it inside and then on a whim, put it outside... and I LOVE it there!  I love that it's festive and patriotic with both more neutral colors than a flag, but also including a bible verse.  I'm going to treasure it! 
I hope you don't mind if I switch gears a bit and speak a bit more personally from my heart.... This framed canvas print arrived from Ever Thine Home (with the banner above,) on the most perfect day, when I was deep in the middle of a seemingly hopeless situation.  I opened the box and read the little printed card that comes attached, and I bawled like a baby, "All of us face difficult times in our families, in our communities and in our world.  Isaiah 33:6 answers the question, "how will I get through this?" Jesus will be your stability.  He offers abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge to those who ask.  Though we wish for better circumstances to satisfy, to bring us joy, peace is only found within.  No matter the current national or world crisis. No matter the present personal crisis.  No matter the secret scars on our hearts." 
 I suppose we could all use some life stability.  I've shared the above image of this pillow from Ever Thine Home previously but...in light of tragedy surrounding us in the world, we all seek a place where we won't be let down. Oftentimes, we even face that feeling in our relationships, especially in our marriages, because we're all human beings. We must make intentional choices to forgive and beyond.  I love this pillow because it's a lovely visual reminder of that choice.

My marriage was severely tested recently and both my husband and I turned to the ONLY ONE who gives us stability while wrapped in what felt like a deep crisis.  I stood in this room praying, "God You've always been our third cord...don't leave us in this pit, surround us with Your stability and pull us free."  I find myself so incredibly thankful when I get to see how He answers specifically, up close and personally, and so often it begins with that choice. I forgive. I trust. I love. I still do...  There is nothing like surrounding your home with reminders that inspire and encourage you.

Life's not perfect.  People aren't perfect.  But God... well, He IS PERFECT.  His plans are always, always, always for good.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Projects & tweaks

I thought I'd pop in here and share some of the many little projects and house tweaks I've been working on lately, since I've been posting a lot of fairly heartfelt topics the past few months. I want to thank you guys so much for your encouragement on my most recent mama post, and I do want to say that my son was so thrilled that God would use the story that is being written in his and my relationship for good and to encourage some of you!  I wish y'all could have heard the precious talk we had about it.. he is such a great kid and I share our story, though it was mostly my side of things, with his total blessing as we are both so blessed and in awe of how God has changed things between us this past year. 

Moving on.  It was a whirlwind May but June will probably be even crazier with kids wrapping up school.  It's been so nice to squeeze in things I've wanted to cross off my list because it secretly makes me feel that I'm in control of something. With my baby boy beginning drivers training, starting his first (temporary summer) job soon, and graduating from 8th grade in two weeks, I like I could use a little bit of control! How does time keep flying by? 
 Because of all the events we've got on our books for the coming three months (eeep!  I love events!) with a bunch of anticipated hosting duties, I decided to revamp half of my kitchen island to accommodate my entertaining items.  Truly one of the best moves I've made in ages because firstly, entertaining items are all so pretty to look at but more importantly, so useful when a hoard of friends and family come over, and so handy to have all in one easy to grab spot!
I gathered all of my outdoor dishes and cups, chargers, serving bowls, cute party items, tealights, bbq picks, wooden & bamboo utensils, pretty napkins, straws, grammy's silverware, wine bucket, serving spoons, bar ware, tags and such.  I don't have a ton of items, but these are things I use regularly so I like to have them always on hand. Tucked in the back of the shelves are also my holiday and specialty sized plates and dishes.  I used a tray and basket for gathering small items and they function doubly if I need to haul things outside for a gathering.

I also decided to finally paint the guest bedroom the same color as my own master bedroom because 1) I love the color to death and 2) I had a gallon and a half leftover and 3) it's the first thing you see when you enter our home.  So it should be peaceful and sweetly minimal in my mind... However. I LOATHE PAINTING.  I always forget that part until I'm about five minutes in when I want to curl up and start sucking my thumb until my mommy comes and rubs my back.  Sadly, this never happens so I always have to forge on and finish the darn job.  I had been putting it off for ages and the ceiling hadn't ever even been painted, even after construction of a wall and doors!  I had tacked up so many things all over the walls in the years that it was my shop's studio and such... it was a mess.  I went through a half a can of spackle. 

After a nice creamy coat of Revere Pewter, everything fell neatly back into place.  I didn't even really want to rehang things on the walls.  I sold my bedding (the yellow and gray Ballard Designs quilt for long time readers) on Instagram and brought back some more neutral bedding from around the house.  I painted my own artwork and even framed the canvas myself which I was so excited to try!  Also, now that my shop is reopened, I moved all my packaging items back in, plus my little mom desk, because I didn't want all of that in my master bedroom.  I have my eye on a tall, narrow dresser from Ikea that I'd like to store my Etsy items in, and place a TV atop so I can move the treadmill into this room as well.  (My husband keeps averting his eyes when this topic comes up.  Ha!)  (He should know...based on past life with his little firestorm of 5'1"... it's only a matter of time... Muwahahahaha!!)
 

 I have been thinking about a soft, furry rug for guests to squish their toes into when they get up.  Hmmm.
 
 The above two photos are the corners that I still need to figure out.  We keep our printer, guest supplies and additional office supplies in the one corner and I hate it... but the printer is huge and it really can't go anywhere else in the house.. and we kind of need a printer.  The above corner is where I'd like to get a dresser to house all my shipping items in this basket, along with the other corner's goods, and then mount a small tv over for a treadmill on those rainy days.) Its  a work in progress but stay tuned.  A solution WILL come.
 Now this tweak happens to be one of my favorites.  One night on a whim, I moved this shelf from the laundry room/garage entry and loved it. (It came from a local shop) Eventually this master bath will be painted the same Revere Pewter I have in the master bedroom, but I keep holding off because we have plans for it, when the budget allows... Regardless, this shelf is delightful in here... however...

 ... it meant that the white antique cupboard above, had to become our new laundry room storage.  I was crazy thrilled when I realized that it was one of those amazingly perfect fits.  The drawers are perfect for storage and the shelves in the long side house our cleaning supplies, laundry supplies and first aid items.  I made a board with Ikea hooks on it for our coats and use a boot tray from Lowe's for shoes as people come in from the garage. 

Moral of this whole story is, move things from room to room until they find the best home for their purposes. 
Project-wise... I had a blast stamping these cute copper tags for my herbs.  I found them locally but someone told me that you can find them on Amazon- well can't you find anything on Amazon?  Seriously.  Life changing. 
 This was a pinterest inspired project... a grapevine wreath that I wired little terracotta pots to.  I painted each pot to look aged, then wired them individually where I wanted them, then hot glued moss into all the gaps.  It was a fun, messy project and all imperfectly perfect.  

Tweak-wise, this sea glass lamp from Lowe's got moved here.  I know it's badly scaled and huge and whatever...  but I LOVE it here.  So it's staying for now.
 I scoured a bunch of antique shops with a couple of my girlfriends not long ago, in a hunt for the perfect tiny, abstract landscape.  I couldn't find one that spoke soothing words to my soul (art can me dramatic for me sometimes) so I came home and painted over an old photo canvas that I no longer wanted hung up. 

(Don't freak- I still have the photo.)
Then, because things were getting painted all over the place... I painted this giant chalkboard frame white because it all just felt better with that rug that I adore sitting there staring up at it.  (Well you do know me by now so it shouldn't come as a tremendous shock.  Things always get painted white eventually.)
  
 I think summer can come now...(only that it will mean I suddenly have a freshman.  Whaaaa!)

  Have y'all been doing any little projects and tweaks?


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Monday, May 16, 2016

Right now, I'm Mommy.

Lately, I've had a specific type of encouragement pressing me deeply.  In fact, I felt it simply couldn't wait one more moment so I'm sitting here, fresh from the shower, before getting ready, to get my thoughts down.  This encouragement is for any mother who even for one guilty moment, hasn't liked her children, hasn't liked the job motherhood, or the role she was given, or the ongoing struggles within and has questioned why her, why them, why her and them together, etc.  To any mom who has felt she was given more than her share, more than she was capable of and more than she bargained for when she accepted this role.  To any mom who wondered if God made a mistake...

Because all of the above was me, for a good portion of my motherhood career.  There, I said it. 
 My story is unique in that at one time, it involved teachers telling me "all wasn't right" and "please get this evaluated with specialists" which led to years of heartaches, questions with no answers and meeting after meeting with expensive specialists, more school-type people telling me what to do, how to do it, what wasn't working, what I needed to change, how things and people in these conversations didn't measure up and heaps, piles and dung hills of Mama-guilt.  The story took roller coaster dips and dives over the years and school changes.  One said "Definitely Asperger spectrum"... another swore by ADHD, another said "No way  to this or that, and here's why" then another said "For sure this and not that, and here's why" then counsellors and school professionals all had varying opinions that swiveled our brains to the point of exploding and I finally felt done. Just done. 

One day in the swirl of kid hormones it was crushing me.  People were crushing me.  Their advice was crushing me and I didn't know who to trust or believe anymore.  Other, well- meaning moms and their advice, and their experiences from their seemingly perfect children were crushing me. My child's behavior was the straw that made it break.  And I whisper-spewed ugliness and darkness and black, all over my sweet husband, with quietly angry, hurting tears flowing.  I said things I'd been thinking for years that no mama "should" think, let alone say, and the guilt.  I voiced it all.  He gently took both my hands in his and told me that I needed to get control... but I didn't know how.  I felt emotionally broken and incapable.  I wasn't even sure I could find it within myself to like these smallish people I had been given charge over anymore and I hated myself for it.  Adrain told me to pray for a change of heart.  I didn't believe it would make a difference but I knew I couldn't go on this way, so I did pray.  I asked God to work a miracle, not in my life, or my situation or my children or the advice giving mob surrounding me... I asked Him to work it in my small, fist sized heart.

I wish I had written down what happened next. That moment, when one small shift set a course for where I am standing today.  I know it was a lot like a railroad track switch.  My emotional train was headed down one track and somehow the track switch was thrown and I found myself inching forward onto a brand new thought path.  I haven't arrived at my destination, but a year in, I'm  overwhelmed with the view surrounding me compared to what what I was seeing on that other track.

And here's where I come today, with my imperfect mama hands held open and the jury still out because we're still in this thing, to hopefully encourage just one "done" mama out there to press forward. When my heart began to change toward my children, I began to laugh more.  This was key for me because it caused life to lighten up more.  Which allowed me to say yes to more, listen more and be more intentional.  One day, nearly a year ago, and not long after that prayer over my heart, I was sitting across from my teenage boy in a coffee shop, enjoying his company. He shared what was happening in his life, what his thoughts about a certain girl were, and just general trivia that I found interesting and fascinating and completely delightful.  It occurred to me with shock and wonderment, that anyone who didn't find him amazing was daft!  I found him amazing.  Smart, funny, quick witted... handsome, endearing, extroverted, and so much more.  I couldn't imagine how his classmates wouldn't like him and how girls wouldn't think he was irresistible (they do sadly and drive us all crazy with their texts). I realized without even realizing it, I'd gone from frazzled, angry, questioning, exhausted mama to joyful, relaxed, happy, laughing mama.  And it was God.  He had slowly worked the kinks in my heart and thoughts into straight paths that honored Him in the mothering department, and kept my feet on them, headed in the right direction.  Sure, we still have our days and our moments.  I'm the mother of a 13 and 15 year old.  But it's different now.  I know when I'm out of line just like I know when they are.

If you're caught in those early years and you're tired... hang on.  If you're son brought a pocket knife to school in the fifth grade when of course he knew better, to show off to a friend on the bus and is suspended  now and you're wondering if HE WILL EVER UNDERSTAND LIFE... hang on... if you're never able to sleep more than three hour stretches and the bags under your eyes speak volumes... hang on... if your family vacations or even outings to a grocery store where you only need FOUR THINGS end with crying and gnashing of teeth and proclamations that THIS IS THE LAST ONE EVER... hang on.  If you're up to your eyeballs in IEP or 504 meetings... please, please, please hang on.  God has you.. in every last place, every last nerve, every last deep breath you're capable of, and every last tear you cry into your pillow.  He has you.  He will make your paths straight.  Pray your heart out and wear a hole in your skinny jeans because it works.  It's all that works.  And it works well.  


Bless you Mamas.  We're in this together and we're not going to ever be done but we are going to do it RIGHT. 

(P.S Isn't my 8th grader handsome?  He is such a good kid too and has all the right stuff in him.  My heart bursts.)
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Proverbs 3:5-12The Message (MSG)

5-12 Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
    Run to God! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
    your very bones will vibrate with life!
Honor God with everything you own;
    give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst,
    your wine vats will brim over.
But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline;
    don’t sulk under his loving correction.
It’s the child he loves that God corrects;
    a father’s delight is behind all this.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Outdoor Space & Kurt's Gathering Basket

I wanted to yap all about my garden and yard in this post and I took the time to begin writing what I wanted to say earlier last week and then I accidentally hit publish when it wasn't even half finished (I have never done that before) and quickly deleted it because I didn't know what else to do... so now I have to rethink what I wanted to say and eventually get back to all that... or not! Darn. IT.  (If you subscribers got a half finished post... that is why. Rrrrrr!)

In spite of that.... I could not be MORE crazy excited to share this post with you today. First of all, my dear friend and coworker, Becca, is married to a fabulously talented guy who I have also become friends with and when I begged him to make me a gathering basket out of wire and wood... he agreed.

Within days he had knocked out an amazing basket and I enthusiastically proclaimed that he should henceforth open an Etsy shop and sell those bad boys!!  He actually liked the idea and went to work with an even better design and is now OPEN for your business (here.)  You need to know a few things- Kurt and Becca... you would love them.  They are young and sweet and have precious hearts and I've just flat out adopted them both.  When you buy from his brand new little shop, you are supporting two of the loveliest people you could hope to know.

That said, let's talk details.  I got my hands on one of Kurt's new baskets and they are AMAZING.  (I photographed it and he even used some of my pics for his listings!) The smaller mesh wire is perfect for keeping pea pods and such from slipping out and his finish work is fantastic.  This is a very high quality item that I would totally recommend. Plus, its just cute decor so there are a dozen ways you could use this.

Also, how cute would this be with gardening odds and ends tucked inside as a gift?!









We'll talk yard and garden again at some point... if I can keep from hitting publish mid-edit next time!! Sheesh.

If you want to join me in supporting Kurt and Becca and their new Etsy venture, you can find the shop here... happy gathering basket shopping!!
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